Welcome to my first blog post, my name is Greer. I have worked for LIFESAVER for a couple of years now and have experienced various aspects of what we do and how our technology can help. In that time I have learnt a lot about water poverty and the developmental and human rights frameworks that surround this global concern.
Since 2001, when the global UN community agreed to the Millennium declaration, and the subsequent Millennium Development goals (MDG’s) were established, there have been successes and failures. According to the UN Millennium Goals Report 2012, extreme poverty is falling, gender parity at schools has increased and accessing HIV/Aids treatment has improved. However, while access to improved water sources has increased many in rural areas lack the access they need.
Central to LIFESAVER’s ethos is the importance of access to clean water. Yet the need for safe water access cannot be looked at in complete isolation. Water poverty affects the progress of all other areas of development.
- Some of you may know the main statistics bandied about:
- There are over 1.1 billion people trapped in water poverty.
- Many women in Asia and Africa have to walk 6km to collect water, risking attack.
- Over 400 million school days are missed every year from water-related illnesses.
Photo courtesy of meaningfulvolunteer.org - This commonly-used image depicts the 8 MDG’s – eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability & develop a global partnership for development.
The MDG’s address the 8 considered key areas of development and are used by many NGOs and charities around the world to provide focus to their goals. I wanted to mention a few of these MDG’s and how water poverty reduces the likelihood of these goals being achieved.
MDG 2 – Achieve universal primary education –
- Without safe water sources nearby, girls are more likely to miss out on an education due to their water collecting responsibilities. This limits their economic and leadership opportunities leading to the increased likelihood of them marrying younger and bearing more children placing a greater strain on both country and familial resources.
MDG 3 – Promote gender equality and empower women –
- Without an education, girls remain marginalised and economically constrained. The absence of girls from the classroom means that boys are left to learn issues related to gender without engaging in a dialogue across the gender divide. This can lead to fewer women in leadership roles both at a local and national level limiting women to rural or vulnerable forms of employment. Also the further a woman has to walk to collect water, the more likely they will be attacked.
MDG 4 – Reduce child mortality –
- Waterborne diseases account for a large percentage of childhood deaths. Without safe water access, a child’s chance of survival is dramatically reduced. More money is spent on medicine, less time is spent at school, stunted growth becomes a concern, not to mention there is a greater reliance placed on the working mother to stay at home and care for the child, reducing family income.
Photo taken during Michael Pritchard’s 2011 trip to Sindh Province, Pakistan
MDG 5 - Improve Maternal healthcare –
- Without local safe water access mothers have to walk a long way to collect water. This places them at risk of attack and also given the weight of water (many women up to 20kg of water on their head) this can lead to curvature of the spine and spontaneous abortion in some cases. A better immune system means the mother is more likely to be as healthy as possible when giving birth which, at the best of times, can be more problematic in rural areas with fewer healthcare workers available leading to other potential problems such as fistula.
Photo courtesy of Tony Cece, Operation Blessing.
MDG 6 – Combat HIV/aids –
- Without access to safe drinking water those affected by HIV/Aids are less able to wash themselves with clean water leading to more skin infections and a weaker immune system. It is clear that safe water provision enables all the above to progress and provides a great foundation on which other development initiatives can be built.